For Veterans Job Interviews Are Same As Personnel Inspections – Nothing More

Veteran Job Interviews

By Debbie Gregory.

Each branch of the military utilizes various types of inspections, where NCO’s scrutinize each servicemember’s uniform, bearing and knowledge. The truth of the matter is that a job interview is nothing more than an inspection. Employers want to see their potential hires, face to face, and inspect their professional appearance, their bearing and their knowledge before hiring them. Veterans are used to inspections, and if they translate their experience in preparing for inspections to preparing for job interviews, then Veterans will find interviews to be a piece of cake.

Before their interview, Veterans should use any materials at their disposal to learn about their potential employer, including what they do and who they serve. Veterans should also be familiar with the job,  its requirements and responsibilities. Veteran jobseekers should know the company’s mission statement and goals. They should also be prepared to answer questions about themselves. Veterans need to prepare for interviews, just like they did for inspections. Before any military inspection, hours were spent preparing and training. Getting a job should be no different. Have your spouse, a parent, or a friend prepare you by conducting mock interviews. You can even ask your local VA or employment center rep to conduct one for you. To see the jobs currently available on MilitaryConnection.com, visit our Job Board, the Virtual Job Fair, or the Live Job Fairs.

Before their military inspections, personnel scoured their uniform and appearance in order to create the best impression. Beginning in boot camp, each Veteran learned that the more squared-away their appearance was, the easier time they would have with the inspection. The same is true for job interviews. Get a haircut, polish your shoes, iron your clothes. Be sure to bring copies of your records should you need them, and your resume. Invest a few dollars to buy a professional looking folder, if not a briefcase to carry your papers in. And always bring a pen. For resume tips, click here.

Interviews should be conducted with the same confidence and attentiveness that inspections were. When asked a question, Veterans should answer clearly and promptly. Just like with an inspection, hesitation and lack of confidence may cause further questioning, or worse, an end to the interview.

But unlike during a military inspection, job interviews should display a Veteran’s personality. Employers don’t want robots working for them. Smile, be polite, and look your interviewer in the eye. But refrain from using sir, or madam. Use the person’s last name along with Mr., Ms., or Mrs. If your interviewer wants you to call them by their first name, they will tell you so. Also, ask questions. Informed questions make you seem interested and involved. To get an idea of the salary range for the job you are interviewing form, check the MilitaryConnection.com Salary Calculator.

Employers want to hire individuals who are hard-working and who will represent and support them in front of their company, customers and colleagues. They want employees who are enthusiastic about coming to work. Make sure that employers see you as someone they would want to spend time working with.

Conclude all interviews with a handshake and by thanking your interviewer. Follow up your interview with a thank you in writing.

Veterans have made a career out of generating a professional appearance, successfully passing inspections and creating first impressions for themselves with new bosses. Job interviews should be easy for Veterans. Just like transferring other job-related skills, don’t forget to use your military experience to your advantage.

Survey Shows Military Financial Capabilities and Room to Improve

Survey Shows Military Financial Capabilities and Room to Improve

By Debbie Gregory.

With steady pay and job security, military families have proven to be responsible consumers. According to a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) report, military families were more responsible than their civilian counterparts at paying bills, budgeting, and general financial knowledge.

Between August and September, 2012, FINRA surveyed 1,000 members of the U.S. Armed Forces in support of its 2012 National Financial Capability Study of U.S. Adults. The survey also included data from an additional 301 servicemembers who participated in FINRA’s 2012 State-by-State Survey that was conducted between July and October, 2012.

The study showed specifically that military males 18-35 rated higher than the national average for being able to pay their monthly bills and in accumulating savings. The study found that 50% of military families spend less than their income, and 53% have set aside 3 months’ worth of wages to be used in case of an emergency. Additionally, 73% of servicemembers contribute to a retirement account.

But the FINRA report also showed that military families were more at risk when managing larger debts, such as mortgages. Approximately 38% of military homeowners were underwater on their home loans. A prime reason for this statistic stems from the fact that most military home loans were made recently. 84% of military homeowners surveyed bought their home in the past 10 years.

The foreclosure rates were similar for civilians and members of the military, with 11% of military males aged 18-35 have experienced foreclosure, compared to 8% of civilians.

Some of the study’s other findings were obvious. Junior enlisted service members in pay grades E-1 to E-4 had the least amount of financial capability. This is no surprise, as Junior Enlisted are at the bottom of the pay scale.

But the study surprisingly found that the group with the second lowest level of financial capability were the senior enlisted members in the E-7 to E-9 pay grades. Senior Enlisted members are at the top of the enlisted food chain and pay scale. These non-commissioned officers are the backbone of our military leadership. Their financial vulnerability could highlight a problem area for military pay that is worth researching. Senior Enlisted personnel are in the final years of their military careers before retirement. If they don’t leave the military with financial stability, then the system, or some of its components, are not functioning properly.

What Do Veterans have to Offer Civilian Employers?

Veteran Work Experience

By Debbie Gregory.

Many problems that Veterans face in finding employment stem from the inability to communicate their military work experience. From the inability to formulate their work history into a hirable job search to translating their military work experience into recognizable civilian experience on a résumé, service-linked communication problems are crippling our Veterans’ ability to gain employment.

A November, 2013 study from the Military Benefit Association showed that Veterans have difficulty in relating their military work experience. At least 197 of the more than 250 recent Veterans surveyed (79%) stated that they had a difficult time relaying their military work experience to civilian hiring managers. How are Veterans expected to get jobs when their skills and experience can’t be accurately stated?

Members of the Armed Forces should have appropriate training to adequately relay what job duties they performed to a civilian employer. This is no simple task, considering how many hats our military personnel wear. But if a Veteran jobseeker could provide employers with tangible work experience, they would be more likely to get hired.

There are a multitude of programs through the VA and other groups and agencies that are attempting to remedy this issue and aid Veterans in résumé writing. However, little is being done on the other side of the coin to help employers understand military work experience. And 72% of hiring managers from various industries and company sizes found it at least somewhat difficult to determine a Veteran’s skill set and previous experience, just from reading their résumé.

Civilian employers cannot be expected to hire someone with no work experience just because they are a Veteran. But many Veterans do possess the training, knowledge and experience to perform the duties of jobs that they are being turned down for. If an employer can find a way to recognize a Veteran’s work experience, they will be more likely to hire that Veteran.

The best person suited for any posted job should be the one hired to do it. It’s hard to believe that 10% of today’s Veterans haven’t been found qualified enough to find employment. Through a lack of information, Veterans probably aren’t applying for jobs that they’re able to do, because of an inability to adequately express their military work experience. And through a lack of understanding, many employers pass over Veteran job applicants because they do not recognize their military work experience as relatable to their field.

Efforts need to be taken to bridge the gaps that keep Veterans from obtaining employment. A joint military and civilian undertaking should be created to break down the roles and responsibilities of every military pay-grade and every military occupational specialty. This information should be disseminated to every servicemember who separates, and to any employer who is serious about hiring Veterans. If Veterans could present tangible work experience to civilian hirers, saying “THIS is what I have done and THIS is what I can do for your company,” and employers could see a decorated warrior and understand “THIS is what you have done and THIS is what you can do for my company,” then perhaps the unemployed Veteran would be a thing of the past.

Marine Pulls 3 Cars Out of ICY Ditch

marine-veteran-larry-draughn

By Debbie Gregory.

During a December 8th snowstorm in Fairborn, Ohio, Marine Veteran  Larry Draughn was watching his son sled in their backyard.  During this short amount of time, Draughn noticed three vehicles separately veer off the icy road, and get stuck in a ditch behind his house. Draughn did what most Veterans would do, if they’re able to- he helped them.

“People weren’t slowing down and they were slipping, sliding by,” said stranded 77 year old motorist, Wendell Ledbetter.

Despite the weather and other difficulties, Draughn didn’t want to see anyone stranded on the side of the road. So he positioned his truck so that he could use its winch to pull them out. In order to attach the winch’s straps,  Draughn had to climb out of his truck into the icy ditch. Ledbetter and his wife, Mildred, voiced concern for Draughn’s health and safety. Draughn smiled at the couple’s concern. “Don’t worry about it, I’ve got metal knees, they don’t get wet,” Ledbetter recalled Draughn saying. Marine Corporal Larry Draughn lost both of his legs as a result of a 2009 roadside bomb explosion while on deployment in Afghanistan.

Draughn expressed that pulling people out of ditches is not heroic. According to Ledbetter, Draughn pulled all three cars out of the ditch in about 10 minutes. The speed and proficiency that Draughn displayed is a result of experience. Recently, Draughn pulled another stranded motorist from a ditch while coming home from a hunting trip.

He contends that this act is merely repayment to a community that has given him and his family so much. The house that he lives in was built and donated by a group called “Home For Our Troops.”

“The community did so much for me as far as building my house, and making sure me and my family had everything we needed,” Draughn told local reporters.

Since his injury, this wounded Veteran has proven again and again that he is anything but disabled. Draughn is still an active hunter and angler, and has participated in “The Ultimate Fishing Experience” a reality show that airs on NBC.

Larry Draughn is the walking embodiment of what American armed forces service members are supposed to be. Every branch instills in its warriors the necessity to adapt and overcome in all aspects. We celebrate Draughn and his ongoing dedication to selfless service to his country and his countrymen. Larry Draughn is a fine Marine, who exemplifies the highest values of the Marine Corps.

“He was a hero not only in Afghanistan, but he continues to be one here,” said Mildred Ledbetter.

We here at MilitaryConnection.com could not agree more. Semper Fidelis, Corporal Draughn.

How to Start Using Education Your Benefits

How to start using Education Benefits

By Debbie Gregory.

While in the military, men and women in uniform are told what to wear, when to eat, and when to sleep. After their term of service has been completed, Veterans feel that they are left to fend for themselves. Veterans return to civilian-hood and try to prioritize the rest of their lives. For most Veterans, the first step for the rest of their lives is  heading back to school and using their education benefits.

But how exactly are Veterans supposed to go about doing that? How do they get approved by the VA? Which school should they attend? How do they enroll? Will they get accepted? What subject should they study? What classes should they take? Veterans are left to figure out all of these questions, with little to no help.

Left to their own devices, many Veterans have found it difficult to access their benefits. Some have had difficulty gaining information on how to use their education benefits at their desired school. Some Veterans simply choose to enroll in the college closest to their home.

Unfortunately, there is currently no universal way to solve all of our Veterans’ problems. But with a little advanced preparation and research, Veterans can smoothly transition from servicemember to student.

Here are a few tips for using your education benefits:

Before using your education benefits, Veterans should take the time to decide what career field to work in. Whatever the motivation, be it money, happiness or talent, you should choose a career that you are passionate about. Once that is decided, then start looking at what education benefits are available to achieve a successful career in that field.

When researching options, the first step should always be the primary source. The primary source for a Veteran researching educational benefits is the VA’s education webpage. Veterans should view the information provided by the VA for their various benefits and GI Bills, and pick the best benefit to suit your career. The Post-9/11GI Bill is currently the most popular benefit, as well as the most generous to date, but time restrictions and educational goals might make it too cumbersome for some career paths.

Once the career/study path and benefit have been chosen, you’re in a better position to choose a school. When choosing a school, a high priority for prospective Veteran students should be the presence of Veteran representation on campus. Questions and issues regarding benefits are not over once you’re enrolled at a school. Veterans should contact a school’s Veterans Resource Center or similar entity and discuss their goals, prior to enrolling. If a school is incapable of completing this, they might not have your best interests in mind. Veterans should choose schools by researching their websites and even taking campus tours. Veterans should make sure that the school offers the degree program they desire.

As a Veteran, you have worked hard for your education benefits. You should take care not to squander the opportunity that you have been given to complete your education. Veterans are encouraged to seek information regarding every aspect of your education. You can never research the topic enough to make an informed decision regarding your education. The reason that most Veterans enlisted in the military was to create a better future. You are encouraged to give yourself the best opportunity to accomplish that mission.

Proposals to Change the GI Bill

post-911-gi-bill-its-your-future

By Debbie Gregory.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill is the most generous education benefit that the US military has ever offered its members. The Post-9/11 GI Bill offers Veterans, no longer on active duty, the full price of college tuition, a stipend for books and supplies, and a monthly housing allowance equal to E-5 with dependent BAH. Since 2009, the current GI Bill has aided over a million Veterans in achieving their academic and professional goals. The benefit is generous and wonderful, but it is far from perfect. Currently, there are several proposals milling about congress intended to upgrade the GI Bill.

Currently, a service member must decide whether to use the GI Bill or to transfer the benefit to a dependent before they separate or retire from active duty. One proposed bill, HR 3514, is designed to change this rule, to allow service members 5 years after separation to make that decision.

Bill HR 3515 is a proposal meant to change the current maximum age for dependents to use their transferred Post-9/11 GI Bill benefit from 26 to 29. This change is desirable for dependents seeking advanced degrees, giving them three more years of eligibility to start using their benefit.

Children of Armed Forces members killed in action are already given separate education benefits that provide them with GI Bill Benefits. HR 3441 in the House and S1039 in the Senate are designed to provide surviving spouses with Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. The proposal would allow widowed spouses 15 years to use their benefit, and stipulates that the spouse will only be eligible if he or she does not remarry.

Many Veterans suffer from injuries and disorders, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), that may cause the 3515m difficulty in school. S 2225 is proposing that Veterans who suffer from a service-related brain injury or PTSD be given an extra 18 months of eligibility to use their benefits.

Senate bill S2110 is meant to assist wounded Veterans.  If the proposal passes, wounded Veterans would receive an additional month of eligibility for each month they were hospitalized under DOD medical care, added to their 15 year post-service time limit to use benefits.

S 2266 is designed to help give Reservists who served on the front lines the same benefits as active duty service members. Currently, Reservists only receive a percentage of benefits that former Active Duty members receive based on time spent active. A Reservist with three to six months of active time only receives 40% of the Housing Allowance. Under the proposed change, Reservists who served in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, or Operation New Dawn would be allotted their training time to count as active time in order to boost them into eligibility for 100% of the benefits.

Formerly, 100 foster children of service members had Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits transferred to them. Under the rules of the original GI Bill, these dependents were cut off and forced to repay for benefits received. HR3600 is designed to right this wrong and send those 100 military dependents back to school, and make a way for thousands of other foster children of service members to use their parent’s benefits.

VA Home Loans

VA Home loans

By Debbie Gregory.

In 1917, Congress established what would become the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). But we have been taking care of our Veterans since 1636, when the Pilgrims passed a law that guaranteed aid for military Veterans who were disabled during the war with the Pequot Indians. Today, Veterans have access to an abundance of benefits through the VA. These benefits improve the lives of Veterans and their families. One of the most substantial benefits that the VA offers is the VA Home Loan.

Since 1944, the VA has helped more that 20 million Veterans become homeowners. Few emotions can compare to the feeling of accomplishment that comes from home ownership. And Veterans are among the most deserving people to have this experience.

VA home loans don’t usually lend money directly to Veterans. What the VA loan does is offer the VA’s credibility for Veterans to use when obtaining financing from private, approved lenders. Because the VA is essentially vouching for its qualified Veterans, lenders can offer Veterans a home loan of up to $417,000 with no down payment.

The minimum down payment on a conventional mortgage is usually 5% of the purchase price. With a conventional loan, you would need to provide a down payment of at least $20,850 in order to purchase a home that cost $417,000. Veterans often spent years in the military, earning little pay, and not being able to save up for the down payment on a house. For many heroes, VA home loans are the only way that they would ever achieve home ownership.

But Veterans should be made aware that the VA is not just giving homes away to anyone who graduated from boot camp. Because the VA is vouching for Veterans to their lenders, they will be held responsible if a Veteran homeowner defaults on their loan. This is why the VA has eligibility requirements, including having a healthy credit score. Currently, most VA approved lenders are looking for a minimum credit score of 620.

The VA’s required credit score is far below what most conventional loan programs require. VA home loans also do not require Veterans to purchase mortgage insurance. With money saved by not paying a down payment and mortgage insurance, Veterans who use VA home loans actually have money to live on after paying their mortgages.

Over the last five years, VA loans have enjoyed the lowest foreclosure rate of any other home loan program. A lot of credit for this statistic can be attributed to the fact that the VA hires specialists who educate Veterans on mortgages, and how to avoid foreclosure. These specialists will also intervene with lenders on the Veteran’s behalf, if needed.

Plea to Honor Veteran Work Experience

Veteran Work Experience

By Debbie Gregory.

American military Veterans spent years working for one of the greatest employers, doing one of the most demanding jobs. These resourceful men and women manned self-sustaining cities at sea, built new towns from rubble, and liberated countries, all while sustaining the utmost level of professionalism. Veterans were members of an elite workforce that organized, delegated and operated independently, while still adhering to orders from above their pay-grade. The experience that Veterans gained while working in the military should make Veteran job seekers highly sought after by employers. But there are currently over a quarter of a million Veterans unable to find work. With all of their experience, why was the November 2013 unemployment rate for Post-9/11 Veterans at 9.9%?

One reason could be the current translation of work experience. Today’s Veterans find themselves in the civilian job market with medals, training certificates, and years spent following and giving orders– but no civilian work experience.

State and local government agencies hinder Veteran employment when most military certifications aren’t recognized, once a Veteran is out of uniform. Service members spend their entire military careers gaining experience and earning qualifications. Thousands of military members held military licenses for operating equipment (tractors, forklifts, firearms, etc.), driving buses, truck driving, as well as many medical/dental certifications. Why are those qualifications rendered null and void, once that person separates from the military? Being able to carry over a license and recognized experience would mean easier access to civilian jobs for Veterans.

Applicants with no work experience, even Veterans, are considered risky hires by employers. And on paper, Veterans have no work experience. There is an obvious language and cultural barrier that exists between those who have a military background and those who do not. These barriers prevent Veteran job seekers to accurately list their qualifications. These barriers also prevent employers from recognizing a Veteran’s experience. Employers should honor a Veteran’s service by honoring the Veteran’s military work experience. This should include employers educating themselves as to how military experience can equate to Veterans being a low-risk hire for them. Employers should utilize this resource of disciplined workers who have two to four plus years of experience in mission accomplishment. Companies that implement this sort of practice would do well by hiring Veterans to help them in this process by learning which jobs and pay-grades do what.

At the same time, service members should receive more realistic training on how to succeed after the military. Education and vocational training give Veterans an edge. But earning a Bachelor’s degree no longer puts a job seeker at the top of a hiring list, even if that job seeker is a Veteran. Today, a Bachelor’s degree doesn’t even guarantee a Veteran a place on the bottom of that list. The benefits that Veterans receive are wonderful and necessary, but with a 10% unemployment rate, are they enough?

With an unemployment level that remains two to three percent higher than the civilian population, it’s obvious that we aren’t doing enough to employ today’s Veterans. Over the next few years, the Defense Department projects that there will be over a million service members separating from the armed forces. Unless we begin to recognize the severity of the issue, our unemployment rate for Veterans could rise even higher. Finding ways to recognize military work experience would have an immediate impact on the Veteran unemployment rate. Remember, Veterans are not honored because of who they are, but because of what they’ve done. Honor their service by recognizing Veterans’ work experience.

Holiday Gift Ideas for Your Veteran

Holiday Gift Ideas for Your Veteran

By Debbie Gregory.

As many families of Veterans are doing their holiday shopping, there is always someone who is extra hard to shop for. There’s always that one person who has few wants and meets their own needs. If this person is a Veteran, here are a few gift ideas that are sure to lighten their Holiday spirits:

Special Veterans License Plates

Your Veteran served their country and countrymen. They deserve to have their service recognized everywhere that they go. Almost every state has a special license plate available for Veterans. Each state’s plate differs in price, design, message and restrictions. Some states allow you to personalize the plate to include their service branch’s emblem. Be sure to contact your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles and inquire about giving your Veteran the gift of recognition this year.

Social Club Memberships

Many Veterans suffer from a variety of social disorders. At the very least, most Veterans find it difficult to talk about their service with non-Veterans. Thousands of Veterans find comfort, fraternity and safety in community groups including the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the American Legion. There are a multitude of clubs, lodges, fraternities and groups that can bring your Veteran a sense of belonging. Seek out a social club in your area and research membership requirements. This year, give your Veteran the gift of camaraderie.

Pride Gear

It used to be, if you wanted to buy an Army T-shirt, or a Navy hoodie, you would have to go on to the nearest military installation to get them. Active-duty service members were the only ones who could get them. There isn’t a Veteran out there who doesn’t wish that they didn’t have more pride apparel. Now, with internet websites, such as Ebay, Amazon and various direct-sales sites, anyone can buy military pride gear. Pride gear is considered non-uniform T-shirts, sweatshirts, accessories and novelty items that proudly display military pride. Buy your Veteran patriotic and military apparel and give the gift of pride.

Local Monuments

Many towns, counties and states honor their local Veterans. Examples of special recognition include banners, plaques, listing their names/likeness on a website, adding them to a list of names on a monument, scrolling their names on the local news on national holidays, and so many more. Participation in most of these activities requires enrollment and sometimes a fee or donation. Inquire to see what your area does to honor its Veterans, and make sure that your Veteran is included. Honor your Veteran this holiday season.

Veterans’ Courts: Giving Injured Vets a 2nd Chance

Veteran Courts

By Debbie Gregory.

Many Military Veterans have had life experiences that are much different from their civilian contemporaries. Depending on when and where they served, Veterans may have experienced a vast array of physical, emotional and psychological injuries. Physical wounds can leave Veterans with scars, which are visible reminders of where they were hurt. But emotional and psychological wounds usually aren’t as noticeable. For Veterans, these wounds scar just the same. Untreated, unhealed emotional and psychological injuries lead to further Veteran illnesses, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety and depression. These illnesses can lead to substance abuse, the commission of crimes, and even suicide.

Knowing that for some Veterans, their criminal behavior could be linked to their military service, 27 states have begun to implement Veterans’ Courts into their legal systems.

The first Veterans’ Court in the U.S. was established in 2008 in Buffalo, New York. Veterans’ Courts are modeled after Drug and Mental Health Courts, in that they promote sobriety, recovery and stability through strict court appointed measures that differ from jail time.

Most Veterans’ Courts utilize a nearby VA medical facility to conduct individual and group therapy meetings for Veterans enrolled in the program. The facilities are also used to constantly screen participants for drug and alcohol use. Combined with therapy, Veteran participants are also assigned to local probation officers who conduct additional screenings and ensure that standards are being met.

Every court has different standards for eligibility. But in general, applicants must be a Veteran of the U.S. military; the charges against the Veteran must be linked to their military service; and the applicant must be accepted by the individual Veterans’ Court Judge. In most cases, the committing of violent crimes, including  murder, manslaughter, rape and gang-related crimes will disqualify an applicant from Veterans’ Courts.

The State of California has 10 Veterans’ Courts. The Veterans’ Court in Ventura County was launched by the Gold Coast Veterans Foundation (GCVF)through a grant from the Martin V. and Martha K. Smith Foundation. We are proud that MilitaryConnection.com CEO Debbie Gregory is an officer and board member for  GCVF. The Ventura Veterans’ Court is presided over by Judge Colleen “Toy” White, who has been a staunch supporter of the program from the beginning.

A significant amount of crimes committed by Veterans can be directly linked to emotional and psychological injuries that they sustained while serving their country. Instead of locking these emotionally scarred Veterans away in jail, they should be given the chance to heal. There are Veterans’ Courts all over the country giving Veterans the chance that they deserve.